And if one looks at the bigger picture of how political parties might fare in the October 13 assembly elections, then the Congress-NCP and the Shiv Sena-BJP combines are poised for a photo-finish. The internal assessments, made individually by the four parties, claim that it is going to be a Congress-Sena clash for the No.1 position–both projected to win 80-95 seats each. The NCP and the BJP are likely to play second fiddle, with 55-65 seats each. The Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee in its internal report to the Central Leadership has said that the Congress can win between 85 and 105 seats. In the assembly polls of 2004, the Congress has won 69 lagging behind the NCP that had won 71 assembly seats. The Congress’s confidence this time round stems from its remarkable Lok Sabha polls performance in the state. MPCC Chief Manikrao Thakre has said that despite the anti-incumbency factor, and the presence of splinter groups in the fray, the Congress believes that people will go for tactical voting, which will favour the Congress. The biggest concern for the Congress is the third front, which, it fears, may wean away the Dalit vote. Another worry is whether the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which had helped in the parliamentary elections by eating into the Sena-BJP vote, will play a similar role this time. The Congress fears that the MNS will become its competitor in some assembly segments in Mumbai, Thane, Pune and Nashik. The NCP does not seem to be a confident lot. By its own assessment, the party is going to get 60 seats at the most. Its biggest worry is the rising rebellions in western Maharashtra, which has been its forte. The unrest among the farmers, coupled with leadership tussles in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur, is giving it the jitters. The party now feels that it needs the Congress as ally to refurbish image and increase the number of seats. The Shiv Sena, which has made inroads in rural Maharashtra, is expecting to bag 80-95 seats. Its executive president Uddhav Thackeray is banking on Vidarbha and Marathwada — both places reeling under agrarian crisis and drought — to turn the tables on the Congress-NCP. Internal survey by the party says that its performance in Mumbai — 36 seats last time — will improve, as Marathis will not waste their votes on MNS to facilitate Congress victory. But the party needs to tread carefully as there are quite a few pockets where the non-Marathis are likely to play a decisive role. The BJP is confident that high anti-incumbency, coupled with the third front, will help it retain the 56 seats it won last time. Party spokesperson Madhav Bhandari has said that there are going to be surprises, and the BJP will do better than last time. Among the others in the fray, the third front is expecting 15-20 seats. The MNS hopes to bag 10-15 seats. But all said and done, how many political parties will hit the nail on its head as far as the winning numbers are concerned will unveil on October 22. With bureau inputs, Zeba Warsia for NMTV News.
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